A firm has been slapped with a £60,000 fine for sending 17,000 nuisance text messages about hand gel as coronavirus hit.
The texts claimed the hand sanitising product was “effective against coronavirus”, and there was no evidence that the people who received them had consented.
A watchdog has now issued a hefty fine to Digital Growth Experts Ltd (DGEL), which sent the texts between February 29 and April 30.
Companies House lists the firm’s director as Andrew Hughes, of Westbury-on-Trym in Bristol.
It was was fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which upholds information rights in the public interest.
Andy Curry, head of investigations at the ICO, said: “DGEL played upon people’s concerns at a time of great public uncertainty, acting with a blatant disregard for the law, and all in order to feather its own pockets.
“We will prioritise action on organisations carrying out similar activity.
“Direct marketing laws are clear and it is the responsibility of businesses to ensure they comply.
“Ignorance of it or attempting to rely on vague and misleading evidence in support of a marketing campaign simply does not wash.
“The sending of nuisance marketing texts are a significant concern to the public, and the ICO will continue to take action where our advice is not followed and where we find serious, systemic or negligent behaviour that puts people’s information rights at risk.”
The ICO said the firm failed to provide sufficient evidence that it had the consent from phone owners it is required to have under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR), which govern marketing calls, texts and emails.
Its report, dated Tuesday (September 22), stated: “The marketing, relating to hand sanitiser suggested by DGE to be effective against COVID-19, sought to capitalise on the current pandemic.
“The marketing was carried out for the purpose of profiteering and financial gain.”
DGEL came to authorities’ attention after people forwarded the texts to 7726, the spam reporting service.
Members of the public can report nuisance texts, calls or emails, to the ICO, on 0303 123 1113.